Sunday, July 15 , 2018, 1:02 pm | Fair 75º

 
 
 
 

Business

Loss of Santa Barbara-San Jose Flights Focus of Forum

Consultant Kevin Schorr and attendees discuss finding an airline to pick up where SkyWest left off

In the face of losing even more airline service to Northern California next month — this time to Sacramento — a group of South Coast business leaders, academics and politicians met in Goleta on Wednesday to discuss ways to restore the former SkyWest Airlines route to San Jose.

With service to the state Capitol ending Aug. 22, Santa Barbara Airport consultant Kevin Schorr said he’s talking to other airlines about Horizon Air’s soon-to-end Sacramento route, but he’s focusing first on trying to find an airline to fly from the South Coast to Silicon Valley.

“There’s been much more reaction about San Jose,” Schorr told the group, which met at Citrix Online. “At this point, SkyWest won’t reconsider its position.”

Schorr distributed a questionnaire to the crowd that asks businesses about their needs for a San Jose route. The results of the questionnaire will be used to help show airlines how much restoration of the route is needed by the many technology companies based on the South Coast and in Silicon Valley.

However, Schorr acknowledged that the effort is an uphill climb because airlines will not take a chance on a new route unless it is profitable from the first day of operation. He said the South Coast needs to show the airlines that more passengers would be willing to use the Santa Barbara-San Jose route in the immediate future.

Santa Barbara Airport chief Karen Ramsdell said modest incentives may be used to coerce a new airline to restore the service, including landing fee waivers and even cash. She said the airport raises its own revenue and doesn’t use taxpayer funds for its operations.

“I think we need to work together as a group,” Ramsdell told attendees, which included officials from the Goleta and Santa Barbara chambers of commerce and representatives from Occam Networks, Make It Work and Silver Air, which operates three private charter planes from Santa Barbara to cities in Western states.

Airport officials said SkyWest had operated the San Jose route for more than 10 years and has been in Santa Barbara for 20 years. But in recent years, the number of passengers paying $650 to fly round-trip from Santa Barbara to San Jose has dwindled.

Asked if charter airlines might be considered to fill the San Jose route, Schorrr said companies such as Silver Air might be contacted after larger airlines are wooed.

Jason Middleton, president and pilot at Silver Air, said his company could take six passengers to San Jose four days a week if some regulatory issues are resolved. He said his planes are similar to flying limousines for executives. During the past 2½ years, Silver Air has been thriving and could handle the San Jose route, perhaps with the addition of a fourth plane, Middleton said.

Brett Caine, president of Citrix Online, which co-sponsored the meeting with the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, joked about his company’s role in the event. He said that even though his company’s Go to Meeting Web conference product is supposed to cut travel, “you still have to do business face to face.”

Noozhawk contributor Ray Estrada can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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